Enterprise Search: Keyword Arbitration Between Organic & Paid

Enterprise Search Marketing programs face a multitude of challenges. Lack of resources, lack of accurate metrics, difficulty getting site changes implemented for organic optimization and so forth. Many of these challenges are more on the organizational side of things than anything else. For those of you in this camp, here’s a challenge that will sound familiar to you: “My business unit should be owning that Keyword instead of Business Unit X”.

Meaning, within the realm of products and solutions that a business offers, at times, there’s only so many keywords to go around for both natural and paid search marketing efforts. Since there’s so much opportunity with non-branded, “generic” keywords (typically those seen at the beginning of the buy cycle), many of these terms are so general that they realistically could be categorized under a variety of your products and solutions. These terms also tend to have huge monthly demand. What this means is that you probably have multiple business units fighting over “ownership” of this keyword.

This is a challenge that affects both Paid and Natural Search. Imagine a scenario where you search on a term and see your brand showing a listing in the Paid results for “Product A”, and a listing in the Organic results for “Product B”. Usually, this scenario arises when keywords are allocated based on data performance and budget rather than business objectives and searcher intent, resulting in multiple versions of the keyword being executed. It can also lead to confusion for searchers when they visit your site and see a word is used in a less than optimal way. And finally, there’s increased work to “explain” duplicate keyword situation to various stakeholders.

For the Search Marketing Managers out there, you’re tasked with managing these expectations and making sure that you don’t upset anyone from a political standpoint. For the Agencies out there – you’re frustrated because you can’t make organic content recommendations without a decision on keyword ownership.

So, how do you solve this? More meetings? No. You can’t keep everyone happy and you want to avoid numerous meetings that never solve anything. What you need is a Keyword Arbitration process. Here is a recommended approach:

Develop a “Score Card” for each Business Unit, containing the following questions that require a Yes/No answer:

  1. Do you have a Relevant Landing Page? (Y/N)
  2. Do you have Relevant Ad Copy? (Y/N)
  3. Do you have Tracking Metrics in Place? (Y/N)
  4. Are you currently running an Offline Campaign? (Y/N)
  5. Does your Business Unit have a P&L Requirement? (Y/N)

The formula is simple – each “Yes” answer gets a 1 point. Winner takes home the Keyword. If there is a conflict over the “theme” of the Keyword, you can escalate it to a Senior Manager to make the final call. In case of a tie, develop a neutral search landing page to “share” the Keyword. Of course, you can modify this to fit your own needs, but the fundamental approach is similar and is aimed at coming to a consensus on keyword ownership for organic optimization versus paid programs.

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.

Related Topics: All Things SEO Column | Channel: SEO


About The Author: is Regional Director of Client Strategy at Global Strategies International, an Enterprise Search Marketing Agency.

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